Synthetic Fuel Might Delay Europe's Ban On Polluting Engines

Industry News / 4 Comments

The 2035 ban on CO2-emitting engines was all set for enaction, but Germany and Italy are not impressed with the current legislature.

Originally scheduled for today, March 7, the European Union is now delaying a vote on banning CO2 emissions from all new vehicles in Europe as of 2035, thanks to the arguments for synthetic fuels brought forward by Germany and Italy. Last month, the European Parliament approved new legislation banning tailpipe carbon emissions from 2035 but included a loophole for synthetic fuel, which the likes of Porsche have been developing and testing. Late last year, a Porsche 911 was fuelled with the first batch of eFuel from the automaker's Chilean pilot plant.

However, this note on synthetic fuels was a non-binding addition to the law, stating that the European Commission would make a proposal on how to legislate vehicles running carbon-neutral fuels, and Germany wants more clarity, while Italy has said it will vote against such a law.

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The law in its current state exempts low-volume automakers that produce fewer than 1,000 vehicles annually, but that doesn't give any leeway to the likes of Lamborghini or Ferrari, and certainly not Porsche, BMW, or Audi. Interestingly, however, Audi is very much behind the ban, but more on that in a minute.

The new ban has not been rubberstamped yet (that was supposed to happen today) because German Transport Minister Volker Wissing reiterated last week that synthetic fuel use should still be possible after the 2035 deadline and that the European Commission's promise of a proposal on how to achieve this was still not realized, reports Reuters.

"We want climate-neutral mobility," said Wissing, which means thoughtful consideration of all potential technologies. So what now?


A spokesperson for the Commission said that it "will consider the potential contribution of CO2-neutral fuels to reach climate-neutral mobility," adding that discussions with bloc member states on the matter were ongoing. But there is an air of urgency around the commission, with the spokesperson adding that "the transition to zero-emission vehicles is absolutely necessary to meet our 2030 and 2050 climate targets." Transport makes up almost 25% of EU emissions and has not been falling over the last three decades as the emissions of the other sectors have.

Despite this, Italy is adamant that EVs cannot be the only solution. "Italy has a very clear position - electric [cars] cannot be the only solution for the future," said Energy Minister Gilberto Pichetto Fratin, before adding that engines running on "renewable fuels" ought to be considered an "equally clean" option.


Interestingly, not all of Germany is against the idea of forcing EVs on the market. The nation's Greens party leads its environment ministry and has said that Germany should not back out of the deal at the 11th hour. Similarly, Audi CEO Markus Duesmann says that backing out of the combustion engine phaseout now could leave the industry at large in limbo. "That would be fatal for the car industry," he told Spiegel magazine.

"Audi has made a clear decision: We are phasing out [the] internal combustion engine in 2033 because the battery-electric vehicle is the most efficient method for individual mobility," said Duesmann.

If Germany's coalition leadership cannot agree on a position, it will have to abstain from the vote. This, coupled with Italy's opposition to the ban and that of some other EU members, could mean yet more uncertainty over the future of the legislature.

It's clear that addressing climate change is long overdue, but with these developments, it could still be months or even years before Europe has a clear plan of action.

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